Sunday, September 1, 2013

Dwelling Places and Semicolons

September has always felt like a time of starting anew.  Maybe it's that my life has revolved for so long around the calendar of an academic life, or maybe Labor Day and all the unofficial "end of summer" rituals call for shifting tides.  Either way the reality is as I turn the page on my calendar I too turn a page in my life.

A little over two years ago I said farewell to blogging for the time of Novitiate.  Part of me thought as I begin writing again that I would fill these early posts by sharing stories of what these two years have looked like and part of me thought I would just pick up and allow imaginations to fill the gap.  As I sit writing this evening, however, I feel that it is not an either/or situation.  In time I will be sure to share experiences of those pages in my life.

In choosing to not share all at once I must ask my readers to trust one thing, to trust that I have changed and in many ways I hope that you will experience this through my writing.  Deeply rooted in the Franciscan tradition and charism is the lived experience of conversion in our lives.  We are called and thus commit ourselves to a life of ongoing conversion where there is always something deeper to which God calls us.  I know that I certainly fumble on the way and have to remove my foot from my mouth quite often, but the reality of love that God offers to us makes it a journey on which I will always be willing to embark.

There is one incredible gift of my Novitiate that I will share at this time.  It is the gift of discovering the importance of creating a dwelling place for Jesus within myself.  Early on in my Novitiate I read Francis' words of dwelling place but it was through some significant experiences that I began to own them and embody them for myself.  Hollowing out, chipping away, carving into, none of these things go without challenge and pain, but as the master carver will demonstrate there is great beauty that comes forth from these experiences.

My Daddy has always taught me the important lessons in life.  His words still echo in my ears as I begin to put too many things on my plate, "Do one thing at a time, do it very well, and then move on." Not too surprisingly my father's lessons did not end with my adulthood, but what was most unexpected to me in these past two years is the truth that I have come to know, his lessons do not even end with his death.  On November 15, 2011 my father passed away after many complications during bypass surgery.  At the time I was in St. Louis, Missouri for my first year of Novitiate.  The challenges I experienced as I faced this new reality in my life are more than I could share here, but what my father continues to teach me in his physical absence is the deep importance of dwelling place.  I not only have a dwelling place for Jesus, but I too hold a dwelling place within me for Daddy.  A friend shared this Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote with me which has deeply shaped my understanding of hollowing myself out:

Nothing can fill the gap when we are away from those we love, and it would be wrong to try and find anything.  We must simply hold out and win through.  That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bonds between us.  It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.  He does not fill it, but keeps it empty so that our communion with another may be kept alive, even at the cost of pain.

"Even at the cost of pain."  So much of what these words express defines what I have been about in these past two years, keeping that empty space empty.  Too many in our world long for a God who will take away all pain and suffering, but I'm not sure I could count myself in that group . . . because what God has done for us, through the Incarnation, is given us the gift of meaning even through the challenges, and in time we just might discover, as I have throughout my Novitiate, that "weeping may endure the night, but with morning comes joy."

And so that brings me to this moment--the moment of Joy!  This afternoon I reflected upon the semicolon.  Yes, that is where my life is . . . I am at the semicolon . . . between two complete thoughts.  As the page turns from Novitiate to Temporary Profession I await with great excitement the coming of God's next thought!


  1. Wow, Sara, this is absolutely beautiful.

    jerry vigna

    1. Awe, Jerry! Thanks!! It is SO GOOD to be writing again!!